Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Knowledge and Power in Silver Sparrow


Something I found interesting in Jones’s Silver Sparrow was how knowledge (which not everyone has, in particular) seemed to be equated with power in the Yarboro family, or at least to Gwendolyn, it seems like.

Early-on in the book Gwendolyn takes a young Dana out to spy, or as she puts it ‘surveil’ James’s legally accepted family in an effort to make her feel better. Dana feels insecure about her teeth and her appearance and has decided that that is why she is ‘the secret’ while Chaurisse gets to be James’s daughter out in the open. Gwendolyn tells Dana that because¬†they know about both families (the Witherspoon’s and the Yarboro’s and James’s dual life) that they are better off or more in control of the situation. To me this was a little disturbing, and while I’m not sure if this was an intentional parallel I thought of how historically knowledge (or lack thereof) has been used to control people. We could talk about Catholicism and the Latin bible, slavery and the written English word and formal education, and even today in regards to government officials and the statistical information they undoubtedly have access to that the common populace does not, and a myriad of situations in which those with knowledge kept it from those whom they sought to control and were successful.

I’m not sure how far to go on this, so I will leave it here.


3 thoughts on “Knowledge and Power in Silver Sparrow

  1. I’ve definitely been thinking along similar lines — I keep thinking about knowledge in connection to the Garden of Eden and how knowledge is deemed dangerous in terms of eating the apple/fruit. So I’m wondering how Dana and Gwen are going to subvert or play into the notion that knowledge, although powerful, is dangerous.

  2. I’d noticed that too. Dana’s mother teaches her at a young age that, not only is knowledge power, but she can use that knowledge to manipulate others. As a young child, Dana watches her mom use the knowledge she has about James’s other family against him. However, Gwen uses these powers (arguably) for good. She only brings up the other family to help Dana get equal opportunities as Chaurisse. However, as she gets older, Dana ironically uses this power against her mother, the person who taught it to her. When her grandfather shows her his new family (because everybody has secrets), she doesn’t tell her mother because she knows it will upset her and she wants to use it against her.

  3. Yes it is very disturbing how Dana has imitated these modeled behaviors by her mother. I can only image what life would be like for her in future relationships and if it’s even possible to have any kind of a healthy one. It saddens me the way she keeps these things from her mother who just wants to feel close to her. I feel like this is foreshadowing something very bad in later chapters. Interestingly, so far I have not seen her hold anything back from Ronalda, but perhaps we’ll see something later on.

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